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The Last Watch

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                                                                        The Last Watch

It's now dark outside as you take your unit out on patrol to guard your beat. The night is starting off quiet when 1/2 way thru your shift, the radio blares SHOTS FIRED. You hear the radio number it's your friend, your heart grows icy cold with fear. I can not stop the pain and the anger - it is blinding my eyes, but I have to keep my cool. There is a criminal on the loose who needs to be caught.

While across the city his wife is putting their children to bed. Telling them - daddy will see you in the morning. Not knowing in front of her house the units are pulling up, the police Lt., the chaplain are walking up the walk to knock on the door and to tell a wife her love has slipped away, she hesitates and starts crying, all that will be left will be the family pictures, home movies and memories everyone will hold dear in their heart.

It was a criminal on a mission, he was determined to take a life that night. He aimed his weapon and pulled the trigger and took the life of my friend and partner, my friend's family is grieving, and I have to stay on my beat and guard the streets.

We took an oath to protect and serve no matter what. We can not back away in fear. What is playing in the back of my mind, did I kiss my love one's goodbye, did i tell them I love them. Yes I did, and hugged them goodbye. How will we survive, we will - but some will not.

It will be left to us to tell the children their father will not return as he was taken to heaven tonight. We will hold them tightly and wipe their tears away. We will weep unmanly tears at your funeral as your casket passes before us and your family will be remembering every memory they had before this tragic day. She is standing at your casket turning her wedding ring round and round on her finger. The emotions are too much for her heart, we are holding her up.

While a lone unit stands in front of the hearse, behind are hundreds of units waiting to follow you to your final place of rest. You will be watching them from the gates of heaven. The flags are at 1/2 mast. To honor your life. You looked danger in the face my friend and it was to be your last living memory.

Now us left behind will have a black band over our shield that hangs over our heart. And it is hard to hear Shots Fired in the dark of night - having to chase someone into a blind back alley are the swamps, but we do it to catch your killer, the predator who took you away from all of us.

You never passed a cry for help. You're an angel among us now. The sirens are wailing, the sound is soaring thru the city all the way up to heaven. Who will put your Christmas tree up this year, will anyone want to celebrate? No, we will not - but for the children we will have too. We are holding the whole burden on our shoulders - we will take care of them and not forget them. When across the parish the alarms sound there is a 4-alarm fire and growing, you are awoken from your sleep. You jump into your turnout gear.

The wail of the siren is calling you on the way there - not knowing this is your last alarm. You're only 27 not even 28 yet.

The flames are shooting high into the sky. Someone yells a child is trapped inside, you spring into action putting your safety behind. The rescue team enters searching, then a flashover comes and your trapped and running out of air, the floor gives way and you start falling but before you hit the floor - the hands of angels catch you. Hopefully you felt no pain before you left us.

The sirens are wailing crying for the battalion chief who has to drive across town with the chaplain and tell your family you've answered your last alarm.

It is the middle of the night when the knock comes on the door, it awakes you from your sleep, it is Christmas Eve. The presents are under the tree, you open the door half asleep - it is cold outside. When you hear the words that will haunt your sleep for the rest of your life.

When behind you little Michael is coming down the stair awoke by the knocking.

Mommy is that daddy - did he bring Santa home with him. When you get down on your knees - you dig deep down into your heart to find the proper words to tell him - daddy will not come home, he is with the angels now and will live in your heart forever.

While upstairs the sound of a new born baby cries. The little miracle born not only 10 days ago. Who will not ever remember his daddy holding him. Sure pictures will tell him who it is. But it will be you - who sick with fear of your life ahead and alone - will have to hold that angel and calm its cries when it is sick.

The battalion chief and chaplain try to comfort your grief with theirs but no one can comfort you.

The hug you gave him before he left - was it tight enough, your lips are remembering his last kiss and the words I LOVE YOU DARLING.

You sit on the sofa just looking at the picture on the wall. Wishing what you heard was not true. He survived. But when the bagpipes play and the casket is on top the fire truck as it passes his station for the last time and the tones go off, it is real. Station 11 has lost a brother.

The city is silent - it is feeling your loss. In three days we have laid to rest a policeman and fireman, one taken by a bullet the other fighting the flames of hell. Trying to save a child.

You all gave your life doing what you loved - not for the money - but for the love that comes from deep within your heart and soul. It is something only you can understand. Your son has followed in your shoes and you cry at the dinner table for your love you have lost. Your heart will never forget. Your bunk will lay empty and your tired bones will rest.

The years pass when Little Michael is a man, he tells you he is following in daddy's foot steps, your heart jumps but you do not stop him. He is his father's son. The family of fire fighters from his station have set a place at the table and a empty chair has sat there till the little boy who lost his father comes into the station to answer the call of his heart. They will watch out for him.

Just remember brother - I love you. The station will not be the same with out you but we will go on.. . .

Dee Dee Serpas is a retired police officer from Kenner Police Department (Louisiana).  Currently, she is the President of the TAPS Memorial Web site.   Following in the footsteps of her great-grandfather, Sheriff Paul Berthelot, Sheriff of St. John the Baptist Parish, and that of her father, who was president of FOP Lodge 2 in the late 1950s, Dee Dee became a Police Officer. First with the East Jefferson Levee Board Police, she also joined the Kenner Police Department and was the only female to graduate from the academy that year. Later, she joined the Jefferson Parish Sheriffs Office as a street cop. This makes her the only known female in Louisiana to have held three commissions at the age of 21. Her first book, Behind the Badge in the Atchafalya Swap is due out soon.

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